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Born-Again Couture: Versace Looks For – and Finds – the Silver Lining, While Ferre’ Bustles and Buttons Up Dior

<STRONG>Long Gianni Silver</STRONG><BR><BR>Gianni Versace is going to the Oscars for the first time this year, and he's got just the right collection for the trip. Versace keeps talking about being a "modern" couturier, and it has to be said that the...

Long Gianni Silver

Gianni Versace is going to the Oscars for the first time this year, and he’s got just the right collection for the trip. Versace keeps talking about being a “modern” couturier, and it has to be said that the collection he presented Saturday night at the Ritz was the hippest of the Paris weekend.

This was a collection designed with a sure hand and a clear head. Gianni suffers from no fashion identity crisis: he loves high-voltage gllitz and glamour, and he doesn’t give a fig if the old grandes dames disapprove. You ain’t ever gonna see Marie Helene de Rothschild or Pammi Harriman wearing Versace, but you will find Diana of Wales, free at last, kicking up her heels in Gianni’s ankle boots.

This season, Versace took silver – already the trendiest look in fashion – and made it sizzle. In fact, almost the whole show was dedicated to Shining On. There were silver stockings, silver shoes and even silvered faces; makeup artist Francois Nars said they were supposed to look moonlit. The shimmery silver theme continued into blouses, day skirts, trenchcoats, evening dresses and haute overalls. The best looks alloyed a touch of silver with less precious elements, like short black skirts with suspenders.

For the customer who wants something a little less flashy, Versace offered up sexy A-line suits in the prettiest pastels – some with a bit of silver trim. Versace shares Lagerfeld’s love of big ballgowns, even if there aren’t too many places to wear them these days. Gianni’s tend to be in satin, wrinkled mousseline or a tortured combination of the two. But these extravaganzas were just runway exercises to prove that Gianni’s atelier is as good as any in Paris. It is, and so was Gianni’s collection.

Ferre’s Flight of Fancy

He’s trying as hard as he can, and sometimes Gianfranco Ferre gets it right at Christian Dior. Sometimes he doesn’t. Monday, alas, was one of those disappointing days. Ferre gave in to his urge to overwhelm the audience, which included everybody from Anouk Aimee to Claude Pompidou. There were too many bustles and buttons and not enough of the crisp suits that have made Ferre the success he is. In fact, the best part of the collection were Gianfranco’s drop-dead pantsuits, which not only fit in with the mood of Paris but showed what a great tailor Ferre is and why the Dior atelier is legendary for its quality and craftsmanship. When he kept his dresses simple, Ferre scored high. One knockout, called “Restauration,” was short and chic, done in the simplest white cloque and silk crepe, with overstitched ribbon appliques. It’s perfect for the Ladies Who Lunch – at the Relais Plaza, of course.